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Mission & policies of Biosphere Expeditions

Our mission and our pledge to you and the environment

Although these days the term 'expeditions' or 'voluntourism' is much used and abused, we at Biosphere Expeditions Ltd. are committed to running real wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of the Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions, but genuine research expeditions and voluntourism projects. Biosphere Expeditions promotes sustainable conservation and preservation of the planet's wildlife by forging alliances between scientists and the public.

Our goal is to make, through our voluntourism work, an active contribution towards a sustainable biosphere. At Biosphere Expeditions we believe in empowering ordinary people by placing them at the centre of scientific study and by actively involving them out in the field, where there is conservation work to be done.

We always work in close conjunction with local people and scientists and try our best to ensure that the fruits of our expedition work benefit our local helpers, their society and the environment they live in. Adventure, remote locations, different cultures and people are part and parcel of our expeditions, but also the knowledge that you will have played an active role in conserving part of our planet's biosphere.

We exist for those who, through their hands-on work, want to make a difference to the survival of the particular species or habitat under investigation, and to the world at large. We invite everyone to come and join us out in the field, at the forefront of conservation, to work, learn, experience and take responsible guardianship of our biosphere.

To achieve this Biosphere Expeditions will wherever possible • collaborate with reputable scientists, research institutions and educational establishments (wherever possible from the host nation) who are experts in their field • collaborate with organisations and businesses which operate in an ethical and/or sustainable way • operate in an ethical and sustainable way, minimising negative impacts on local cultures, environments and economies • publish results and recommendations based on collaborative work together with those who helped gather data and draw conclusions.

Economic policy

Biosphere Expeditions believes that we have designed an economy that is dependent upon endless growth. We have also designed an economy that generates incremental profits by constantly increasing productivity. Endless growth is an unhealthy and unsustainable mathematical impossibility. Cancer is perhaps the best analogy to endless growth. It grows until it kills the body that hosts it. Therefore Biosphere Expeditions is not committed to growth. We want to do a few projects and we want to do them well, making a difference to our partners and local communities on the ground as well as the wildlife and habitats that support it. We want to retain full control of our processes and actions, with our left hand knowing what our right hand is doing. If there is growth, we will make sure that it is sustainable and necessary, which means it should be based on local demand and need. Our economic decisions will be based on this maxim.

In addition we are committed to the following:

  • Accommodation varies from fixed camps, jungle lodges to tents. Where applicable, these will be owned locally.
  • Where possible food is sourced from locally supplied produce and ideally from organic sources.
  • Where applicable, team members are encouraged to spend their relaxation time using local facilities and resources.
  • Biosphere Expeditions always works in close conjunction with local people and makes sure that the fruits of our work benefit local helpers, their society and the environment they live in.

Environmental policy

All Biosphere Expeditions missions make a contribution to protecting or improving the environment. A formal environmental assessment and appropriate actions as a result are an integral part of Biosphere Expedition's environmental policy.

Biosphere Expeditions always aims to minimise the effect on the environment of all its activities. Team members are fully briefed on all aspects of this and told how to minimise their personal and the mission's impact on the environment. Where possible, all paper and other recyclable materials are recycled. Water and energy efficiency are always under consideration and where possible efforts are made to minimise energy usage.

In order to reduce environmental impact, all expeditions are vegetarian (see food policy below).

Biosphere Expedition also works with Climate Care, who encourage people to repair the damage they do to the environment every time they fly or use other fossil fuel burning means of transport. All our expedition team members are encouraged on a voluntary basis to make a donation to Climate Care based on the damage their travel to the expedition base has done. This donation is paid into a fund that invests in projects that reduce emissions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. Biosphere Expeditions then covers the carbon debt incurred whilst the expedition is actually in the field.

Social policy

Briefings before the start of the mission and leaders during the mission highlight relevant social issues and offer best practice examples to team members.

All missions are developed with local partners and scientists, as well as community representatives where appropriate. This consultation serves to minimise negative impacts on local cultures. This is often developed through a more complete integration into the local community, by working alongside them to achieve a conservation objective.

Biosphere Expeditions publishes results and recommendations based on collaborative work together with those who helped gather data and draw conclusions.

Emissions policy and carbon offsetting

Biosphere Expeditions works with Climate Care on achieving carbon neutrality in its expeditions (i.e. harmful emissions as part of the expedition are offset against donations reducing greenhouse gases). Climate Care is an organisation that invests in projects that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. The first two displace fossil fuels in the energy generation mix and the latter absorb carbon dioxide.

All emissions during the expedition are offset by Biosphere Expeditions, but in addition to this we encourage every expedition team member to work out, on an entirely voluntary basis, the carbon deficit they incur through travelling to the expedition assembly point and back home again. For a relatively small sum, Climate Care can then help to remove from the atmosphere the same amount of carbon dioxide as is produced by flying or other forms of transport to the assembly point. For example, through every hour in a Boeing 747 you personally contribute an equivalent of 123 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere, which would cost about £1 to offset. If you would like to take part in this scheme and work out your carbon deficit, you can do this quickly and easily on the Climate Care website or contact them for assistance.

ClimateCare

Our position on the carbon debate and flying

The current media focus on environmental issues, whilst very welcome and long overdue, has led to a lot of bad press for flying. Some might argue that this is a good thing, but it has left the general public with a somewhat skewed view of the impact of flying and many now feel guilty about taking a holiday that involves a flight.

According to a recent straw poll by www.responsibletravel.com, some people think that air travel accounts for around 30% of total emissions whereas in fact it accounts for nearer 5% of total emissions and our homes account for the lion's share with 25% of emissions. Another very large share is agriculture for food production, especially meat. The figures vary according to which study you look at, but agriculture is likely to contribute to well over half of all greenhouse gas emissions, with meat production as the worst culprit by far, which is one reason why all our expeditions are vegetarian.

While fully acknowledging the impact of flying on global warming, we believe that it should not be the scapegoat for the world's global warming crisis and below suggest a few simple ways in which you will be able to ‘afford’ your flight with CO2 savings.

Typical household emissions per person per year in the UK are around 11 tonnes, yet a return flight from, say London to the Spain project assembly point in Reus, will only emit approximately 0.26 tonnes per person. Or a flight from Frankfurt to the Tien Shan expedition assembly point in Bishkek will emit 1.31 tonnes. If you want to be able to ‘afford’ a flight in reduced CO2 emissions, you can easily do this by eliminating some of the 11 tonnes of household emissions – just have a look at the tables below for what can be done and you’ll see it’s actually pretty easy.

emissions

We also stongly believe that stopping travelling altogether will have a detrimental effect on both local economic development and conservation thereby holding back carbon reduction initiatives in destinations, which need local communities to be educated about their environments, and to be able to afford to invest in low carbon technologies. UK tourists alone currently spend around £2bn a year in developing countries, a figure which comes very close to the UK’s Department for International Development annual budget. Admittedly, not all of this trickles down to local people, but as responsible tourism increases, so does this proportion.

According to Justin Francis of www.responsibletravel.com: “Air travel contributes to global warming, but if we all stopped flying and booking responsible holidays then we will also contribute to global warming as both local economic development and conservation would be negatively impacted.”

So in a nutshell, if you follow the suggested or similar household carbon reduction measures and go veggie whilst on expedition, you will be able to participate safe in the knowledge that you will be emitting less carbon than before, and that you will also be supporting local conservation and development – which in turn can help local communities to reduce their own carbon emissions.  Moreover, after having been on expedition with us, we would hope that you return home with strengthened values regarding the environment, resource preservation, and economic wealth, which could lead you to even more sustainable behaviour in your daily life and potentially for the rest of your life. Now if that’s not worth the investment, then we’re not sure what would be!

Food policy

Biosphere Expeditions is all about animal conservation and research or caring for animals in its widest sense. Because of this, Biosphere Expeditions will offer as part of its catering no animal meat (including fish) that is connected with animal abuse or suffering or obtained using unethical or unsustainable production and harvesting methods. When in doubt about any of the above, Biosphere Expeditions will err on the side of caution. In addition, the United Nations has identified vegetarianism as one of the major ways to reduce impact; it has also concluded that a global shift toward a vegetarian or vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. In line with all of the above Biosphere Expeditions will do its best to offer a purely vegetarian diet wherever possible on expedition.

Those more interested in our reasons behind this policy can read an interview with our executive director on this topic.

Sponsorship policy

Biosphere Expeditions actively encourages and seeks out support from companies whose activities have a direct connection to Biosphere Expeditions’ research and conservation work through provision of products and/or services that can support this work. This includes manufacturers of outdoor & research equipment, IT, vehicles, or providers of services such as transport, training, education or PR/marketing. Biosphere Expeditions will also approach grant-giving bodies and trusts whose funds are not derived from environmentally destructive activities.

Biosphere Expeditions will not accept support from the following:

  • Corporations whose activities, services or products come with a persistent and large-scale negative impact on the environment. This includes oil, gas, logging, mining and other such companies, which Biosphere Expeditions judges to fall into this category.
  • Corporations whose activities, services or products come with a persistent and large-scale negative impact on human health or welfare. This includes tobacco, alcohol, some food production & processing and other such companies, which Biosphere Expeditions judges to fall into this category.
  • Corporations who Biosphere Expeditions judges to obtain their revenue by unethical means or who have a record of unethical conduct.